Governor unfairly implies local assessors allowed fraud with STAR program
As a long-time Assessor in this county I am offended by the implication that because the STAR program only resided with the assessors we allowed fraud. Words should be carefully chosen so as not to offend and imply wrongdoing.
We have provided this service to our public for free for many years. (How much is the new-and-improved program costing taxpayers?) The state used to pay the towns for each application. However like most of the aid to localities, this too has disappeared. However we continued to provide this service to our taxpayers because we are public servants first and foremost.
We do our very best to verify incomes to insure that no one is receiving anything that they are not entitled to. We are denied access to the state database which does limits us. Most of us assessing in our own town(s) know our people, know our properties and we do pay close attention, believe or not. Remember, government closest to the people serves the people best, can the government farthest from the people make a similar claim?
I called the STAR Assessor hotline yesterday for one of my taxpayers who after many years on Auto Renewal (IVP) is this year being questioned about their income despite fact that they continue to file income tax each year. The state rep (doing as instructed) would not answer my question, “Is their STAR okay for 2019?” We are being treated with suspicion when we try to assist our taxpayers, many of whom are elderly and really need our help. Is this what the state wants, everyone is guilty until proven innocent?
I happen to be one of the assessors who feels the penalty for fraud is much too low and would not deter anyone determined to cheat. I also feel that those caught cheating should be banned from receiving the exemption permanently.
I am also one of the assessors who believes that most people, including the assessment community, are law-abiding decent people who can be trusted. In a small town we know who the criminals are. I am sorry that there is corruption in certain segments of the political community which gives all of us a black eye when in reality most public servants are good people doing good things every day.
Assessor for Town of Clarendon